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Smoked Chicken Pecan Salad

Smoked chicken pecan salad paired with arugula on a croissant.

This Smoked Chicken Pecan Salad combines tender chicken, spiced pecans, tangy red onions, and crunchy celery, folded into a creamy dressing. Smoking the pecans alongside the chicken brings a roasted flavor to this salad, balancing the sweet and savory.

Smoked chicken pecan salad served with arugula on a croissant.

This smoked chicken salad sure beats anything I was served as a child. You won’t find gloopy, soft chicken salad here. Each bite has crunch, spice, and of course plenty of smoked pulled chicken. Shove the chicken pecan salad in a croissant, or an avocado, or wrap it in some leafy greens.

If you like this recipe, you’ll probably also enjoy Spicy Smoked Ham Salad.

Why This Recipe Works

Smoked chicken & pecans. Yes, this recipe uses smoked pecans as well. The pecans are lightly seasoned and smoked alongside the chicken, adding a spicy flavor.

Versatile, even if you don’t have a smoker. Wood-fired flavors really bring the dish together, but for those of you missing a smoker, you can use shredded chicken and oven-toasted pecans.

Foolproof and easy to customize. Once the chicken and pecans are smoked, the only effort comes with mixing everything together. Want more mayo? Different mix-ins? Go for it. This recipe for smoked chicken pecan salad is a template that you can customize.

This pecan chicken salad can go on any sandwich, or be served with a salad.

Main Ingredients

Chicken Pecan Salad is highly customizable, even to the point that you could use shredded rotisserie chicken if you want to.

Trust me, smoking the chicken is absolutely worth it! Read here for the guide to Smoked Pulled Chicken.

This combination of ingredients was hand selected and tested to create a more savory, smoky version of the classic chicken pecan salad:

  • Smoked shredded chicken
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Celery, chopped
  • Red onion, diced
  • Smoked and spiced pecans
  • Dijon mustard
  • Mayonnaise
Main ingredients for the chicken pecan salad

Variations and Substitutions

Maybe you don’t like something, or just have different ingredients on hand. Not a problem, because this is highly customizable. Here are some suggested options, many of which are commonly found in chicken pecan salad:

  • Toasted pecans, or other nuts. You don’t have to smoke them but it really does make a difference for this dish.
  • Mustard swap with spicy brown, stone ground Dijon, or even creole mustard.
  • Dried cranberries, cherries, dates, or raisins.
  • Apples, diced fine. Red for a bold flavor, green for the tart.
  • Onion varieties such as scallions, white or sweet onions, or even shallots.
  • Grapes, sliced into smaller pieces.
  • Cheese, cut into small cubes. White cheddar or gouda are my favorites.
  • Chiles, such as jalapenos, serranos, or fresnos.
  • Pickles, even pickled jalapenos. Make sure you drain the liquid first.
Set the spiced pecans on a baking sheet that can be placed in a smoker.

Smoking Pecans and Chicken

Seasoning and smoking the pecans is key for this recipe. It couldn’t be easier, as it the pecans can simply smoke alongside the chicken. Read here for the walkthrough on Smoked Shredded Chicken. Let’s walk through the brief process for smoking pecans.

How to Smoke Pecans

Toss the pecans with 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a bowl. Mix the seasonings together (recipe below) and sprinkle over the pecans. Toss again to mix everything and lay them out on a baking sheet in an even layer.

Smoked pecans right alongside the smoked chicken.

Smoke the pecans for about 45 minutes at 250°F, the same temperature for the chicken to be smoked and shredded.

Smoked Pecan Ingredients

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (vegetable, canola, etc.)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
Mix all of the ingredients together for the salad and season at the end.

Important Tips for Chicken Pecan Salad

  • Don’t add salt and pepper until the end. Depending on the seasoning you use for the chicken, and how much comes through in the salad, you might not need as much as you think.
  • Use flavorful seasoning for the chicken. I recommend a BBQ-flavored seasoning if possible, rather than a classic herb and citrus seasoning. Try out the Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub, which also can be used to season the salad at the end.
  • Smoke extra pecans. This recipe calls for 2 cups, but go ahead and make extra if you have them. You don’t want to go through the effort of smoking pecans and wish you had extra.
  • Let it rest. I recommend allowing the smoked chicken pecan salad to rest in the fridge once it’s mixed for a few hours, or even overnight. This is definitely a prep-ahead dish.
Prep the pecan chicken salad ahead of time for an easy meal.

Side Dishes to Serve

This chicken pecan salad is ready to go when you are, so it’s nice to have sides that complement it. Here are a few suggestions for some other make-ahead dishes:

Load up a croissant with this delicious smoked chicken pecan salad.
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Smoked chicken pecan salad paired with arugula on a croissant.

Smoked Chicken Pecan Salad

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This Smoked Chicken Pecan Salad combines tender chicken, spiced pecans, tangy red onions, and crunchy celery, folded into a creamy dressing. Smoking the pecans alongside the chicken brings a roasted flavor to this salad, balancing the sweet and savory.

  • Total Time: 50 minutes
  • Yield: About 4-6 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 4 cups smoked shredded chicken
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1/4 white onion, diced
  • 1 cup smoked pecans, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise, more as needed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Smoked Pecans

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder

Instructions

  1. Smoke the pecans (optional). Toss the pecans with the oil in a small bowl. Mix the spices together and sprinkle it into the pecans, tossing again to mix evenly. Lay out the pecans on a baking sheet in an even layer and smoke for 45 minutes total, stirring halfway through. Remove and allow them to cool.
  2. Dice or chop the ingredients to a similar size. Add the chicken, eggs, celery, onion, and pecans to a large bowl.
  3. Mix the mustard, mayonnaise, and lime juice in a small bowl. Fold it into the chicken mixture until evenly coated. Add additional mayo if needed, and taste before adding salt and pepper.
  4. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld for at least an hour, or even overnight. Serve on sandwiches, crackers, chips, or leafy lettuce wraps.

Notes

  • Leftover smoked and shredded chicken can be used for this recipe. Read the guide on how to smoke shredded chicken.
  • This recipe is a guide, so add ingredients as you need to.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Chicken & Poultry
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Salad
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